Joan Jett is no one hit wonder. Sure, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” is an iconic rock anthem that still gets a crowd going to this day. But the story of Joan Jett is more layered than one monster jam. Bad Reputation gives us insight into Joan’s extensive career from her and her loved one’s accounts. And, like the rock star herself, the documentary is full of style, edge, and pure passion.
Joan’s career begins with her impactful work as the founding member of The Runaways in the 70s. The group brought something different during this era as an all-female rock band whose lyrics were open and brash. Although they struggled in their own country, The Runaways gained success overseas. After many band member changes, a firing of their original manager Kim Fowley, and musical direction disagreements, the band officially dissolved in 1979.
Post-Runaways, Joan began working with producer Kenny Laguna and fronted her own band, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. They were rejected by 23 labels before starting Blackheart Records, making Joan one of the first women that founded a record label. As the leader of The Blackhearts, Joan had many hits during the 80s, but none bigger than “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” which was #1 on the Billboard 100 for 8 weeks. The 90s and 2000s saw Joan becoming a supporter for up-and-coming bands like Bikini Kill and The Gits. Joan was also touted as being an inspiration to the Riot Grrrl movement, due to her advocacy on sexual assault and female empowerment issues. In 2015, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Having the opportunity to see Joan recount her life in her own words is a highlight of this documentary. Often times we are unable to give our icons their flowers while they’re still alive. But to have Joan still with us, and still as ballsy and badass as she was when she first stepped onto the scene, is a blessing. Her wisdom and earnestness about her life as a female rocker is priceless to watch because of her influence on the entire genre. It’s also a highlight to have former managers, mentees and associates of Joan speak highly of her. The doc subtly views Joan’s life by decades, creating the opportunity to introduce new interviewers who met her during the new era. All have memorable recounts of Joan and her commitment to her craft, as well as her rebel spirit.
Bad Reputation is a celebration of a pure rock ‘n’ roll soul. Joan Jett is an icon not because of the music she made, but what she represented as a woman with her agency in the rock business. Opinionated, assertive, and a talent on guitar, it’s about time we celebrate the Godmother of Punk Rock.